Engineering solutions for efficient movement

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , , , ,

A merry Christmas to all the readers. Here’s hoping Santa was kind to you this year. This blog’s author, historically a Westie – though residing in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs these days, received a Western Sydney Wanderer’s jersey.

WSW

Western Sydney also received some good news right before Christmas in the form of support for an airport at Badgery’s Creek from Liverpool Council, which includes the Badgery’s Creek area. It’s clear that the debate over an airport has moved on from whether one should be built, and is now over how best to build one so that Western Sydney receives the maximum benefit.

Today’s post is about engineering solutions for efficient movement of people in the form of 2 videos.

The first is in Spanish with English subtitles from Santiago, Chile (taken from the great transport blog Human Transit). It explains how a gate in the middle of a platform ensures that passengers enter the train carriage at the right spot, rather than trying to jockey for a good position when leaving the carriage onto the platform. While this gate appears irrational from the perspective of the individual, it makes the movement of people more efficient overall, even to the benefit of those who might appear to be worse off as a result.

In Sydney, the marshal’s trialled at Town Hall appear to mimic this sort of idea. While the North West Rail Link could initially see overcrowding at Chatswood as large numbers of passengers transfer from one train to another until such a time as a second Harbour Crossing is completed. Both scenarios could learn something from this low-tech engineering solution.

The second video looks at how intersections in the Netherlands are designed to allow bikes and cars to cross safely. The simplicity of the solution is breathtaking. Even more impressive is the way it allows right hand turns to be executed safely and easily (in the video they are left hand turns, due to the Dutch driving on the opposite side of the road to Australians).

With the accelerated expansion of bike paths in Sydney, this is also somewhere that city planners in Sydney could learn a thing or two from overseas.

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Comments
  1. TandemTrainRider says:

    > … at how intersections in the Netherlands are designed to allow bikes and cars to cross safely. The
    > simplicity of the solution is breathtaking. Even more impressive is the way it allows right hand turns
    > to be executed safely and easily (in the video they are left hand turns, due to the Dutch driving on
    > the opposite side of the road to Australians).

    Having cycled in Holland I have to say their intersections are anything but simple.

    The whole premis of bike paths and lanes is to prevent motor vehicle vs bike crashes by keeping the two modes physically separate. The whole idea breaks down at intersections because vehicles have to cross each other’s path depending on their direction.

    When you overlay grade separation they way the Dutch do they quadrupal the number of intersections per junction: because you need enough for each direction, then that number again for the other mode, then a set of intersections where the alternate modes cross eachother’s paths.

    It “works” in Holland because cyclists have *more* rights on the roads that motor traffic, and those rights are widely respected. In Australia the reverse is true.

    Be that as it may, those insanely complicated dutch intersections mean people driving motor vehicles can be in a position where they need to give way to the left and right simultaneously, which is problematic as no human has a field of vision that spans greater than 180deg.

  2. Ben says:

    So essentially, the lo-tech solution on the trains is to get passengers to board the train at the door closest to exit at the destination. I think time-conscious commuters do this anyway, to save time.

    There’s an app called Exit Strategy NYC that maps train doors to exits at each station of the New York Metro. If we want to change commuters’ behaviour, building this information (crowdsourced or otherwise) into apps would be a start. TfNSW is already encouraging use of apps, so this requires minimal effort on their part.

  3. @Ben –

    Thanks for the comment, I believe this is your first one on this blog!

    The solution depends on the problem. If the problem is overcrowding due to passengers going in opposite directions, then getting them to board the train near the exit at their final destination would be the solution. But if the problem is overcrowding due to too many passengers boarding in the centre carriages, rather than the end carriages, then this is not only not a solution to the problem, it can make the problem worse by not spreading passengers evenly across the train carriages.

    Sydney actually suffers more from the latter than the former.

    The trick is to first identify a problem, and then find a solution to it, not to find a solution first and then go seeking a problem where it can be used to fix it. That can often make the problem worse from a communal perspective, but sometimes also from an individual perspective (which is what we see in the video in this post).

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